Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Posts tagged “Jupiter at Opposition

Skywatching Highlights: October 2011

As the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, the skies are filled with good observing opportunities. 

Meteor showers, a comet, and Jupiter at opposition are the highlights for October.




2 Mars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer
4 First Quarter Moon 11:15 AM
8 Draconid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 6-10, ZHR up to storm levels)
8 International Observe the Moon Night 2011
12 Full Moon (Hunter’s Moon) 10:05 AM
13 Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon is about 5 degrees apart
14 Saturn Conjunction
15 Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades
16 Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth
20 Last Quarter Moon 11:30 AM
20 Mercury-Venus Conjunction dusk
22 Orionid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 17-25, ZHR=20)
27 New Moon 04:00 AM
28 Mercury-Venus Moon at minimum separation dusk
29 Jupiter Opposition (closest approach to Earth) 08:40 AM

Two meteor showers: Draconids & Orionids 

*DRACONIDS (Giacobinids)
The Draconids peak will this year on the evening of October 8th with a higher than normal meteor count expected. Periodic (6.6 year orbit) comet 21P/Giacobini/Zinner is the source of these meteors, and this year Earth is predicted to cross a dense debris stream from the comet. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass as high as 500 per hour, radiating from the northern constellation Draco, near the Dragon’s head. This is not without precedent as the Draconids stormed briefly to 10,000 meteors per hour in 1933!

The Orionids will peak this year on the evening of October 21/22 . Periodic (76 year orbit) comet 1P/Halley is the source of these meteors. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour, best visible before dawn under dark skies. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. The waning crescent Moon this year should not interfere much with your observing of these shooting stars.

Comet Elenin
Newly discovered comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the Earth on October 16. The comet was discovered on December 10, 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is estimated that the comet will reach 6th magnitude as it makes its closest approach. This will make it just barely visible to the naked eye. With a good pair of binoculars and a little determination, you may be able to get a good look at this new comet during mid October.

Jupiter at Opposition
The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be a big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.

Full Hunters Moon
This month’s full moon is called Hunter’s Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.

Mercury-Venus & Moon at minimum separation
This is a wonderful conjunction of 2 planets, the waxing crescent Moon and the red giant star Antares about 30 minutes after sunset on the nights of October 28 & 29th. You will need an unobstructed view low to the SW. Use binoculars or a small telescope to locate challenging Mercury.

International Observe the Moon Night 2011

Join people from all over the world to celebrate the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 8, 2011. InOMN is an annual event celebrated globally to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon.

For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!


Happy skygazing! 🙂


Brighter Jupiter on its Closest Encounter with Earth

Make way for the King of the Planets! 🙂

Wondering what’s that big bright star that was visible all night?  It was the planet Jupiter, and it’s far brighter than any true star in the night sky. Jupiter can already be seen twinkling low in the east after twilight, and higher in the southeast as the evening wears on.

Even the skies seemed to be cloudy at night here in the Philippines,  Jupiter often still stands out amidst the dark sky. 😀

This giant gas planet is always bright, but it shines brighter this month. On the 21st (8PM PST), Jupiter will swing closer to Earth (368 million miles away) and shine brighter than at any time between 1963 and 2022 .  It will remain nearly this close and bright (magnitude -2.9) throughout the second half of September.

The night of its closest approach is also called “the night of opposition” because Jupiter will be opposite the sun, rising at sunset and soaring overhead at midnight. This opposition is special because Jupiter, the largest of all the solar system’s planets, will soon reach perihelion, the closest point in its orbit to the Sun. That means it’s physically closer to Earth during this opposition than a normal one. It will rise below the Circlet asterism in the constellation Pisces the Fish and present its best views high in the sky, when its light travels through less of Earth’s atmosphere.

Jupiter is also brighter than usual by about 4 percent because one of its brown cloud belts is hidden. For nearly a year the giant planet’s South Equatorial Belt, usually plain to see in a small telescope, has been hidden under a layer of bright white ammonia clouds.

Because Jupiter is so close to Earth, this is a great opportunity to view it through a telescope. Jupiter is most interesting when the Gred Red Spot is visible and/or when one of the moons is casting a shadow on Jupiter’s disk.

Coincidentally, the planet Uranus is also at opposition on September 21st. On that night it will travel across the sky alongside Jupiter, although not nearly so bright. With binoculars or telescopes, it will be less than 1° from Jupiter until September 24. At magnitude 5.7, Uranus is the brightest “star” that’s that distance roughly north of Jupiter, and it can be recognized by its bluish color.
The full moon will appear right above Jupiter on September 23, which is also the Autumnal Equinox.

Happy sky viewing! 😀

* * * * * *

Fast facts about Jupiter

  • Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. More than 1,000 Earths could fit inside Jupiter, and all the other planets together make up only about 70 percent of Jupiter’s volume.
  • It takes Jupiter about 12 years to orbit the Sun once, but only about 10 hours to rotate completely, making it the fastest-spinning of all the solar system’s planets.
  • Jupiter rotates so rapidly that its polar diameter, 41,600 miles (66,900 kilometers), is only 93 percent of its equatorial diameter, 44,400 miles (71,500 km).
  • Jupiter reflects 52 percent of the sunlight falling on it, more than any other planet except Venus (65 percent).
  • Jupiter’s four bright moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, are easily visible through small telescopes. Io takes less than 2 days to orbit, so its relative position visibly changes in an hour or so — less when it appears close to Jupiter.
  • Our line of sight lies in the plane of the jovian moons’ orbits, so we see occultations (when a moon moves behind Jupiter), eclipses (when Jupiter’s shadow falls on a moon), and transits (when a moon passes in front of Jupiter) at various times.
  • Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the solar system’s largest satellite, with a diameter of nearly 3,300 miles (5,300 km), greater than that of Mercury.


sources: SkyandTelescope.com, Spacedaily.com, Astronomy.com

Jupiter and the moon on August 26

Moon and Jupiter in the East (about 25 deg above horizon) at 8:35 PM (PST)

The night sky on August 26 will be dominated by  Jupiter and the waning gibbous moon. They can be seen in the east by mid-evening, after brilliant Venus has disappeared beyond the western horizon. Rising just an hour or two after sunset, Jupiter and the moon can be viewed for the rest of the night among the faint stars of the constellation Pisces the Fish.

With a bright moon passing near them, Pisces’ dim outline might not be visible except from very dark locations. Still,  a prominent asterism – or noticeable pattern of stars – can be glimpsed near Jupiter and the moon on that night. It’s called The Circlet in Pisces.

Jupiter,  is slowly increasing in brightness as it heads towards its opposition and closest approach to Earth in 12 years just next month, September 21 .  This time is the best chance to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. The giant planet will be as big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands.


references: EarthSky.org, SeaSky.org